Researching Ageing Bodies in the Home: A Foucauldian Analysis

Davison, Jean (2015) Researching Ageing Bodies in the Home: A Foucauldian Analysis. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.


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The structure of the United Kingdom population is changing with the percentage of people aged 65 and over increasing from 15% in 1985 to 17% in 2010 (Office of National Statistics 2012). During this time older people have been encouraged to remain living in their own homes (National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences 1998). There is a growing body of evidence regarding older people and their homes concentrated primarily on the interpretative paradigm. In view of the existing evidence base the question posed was: ‘How do the discursive practices of older people living in their own homes reflect societal discourses?’ The aim of the research was to investigate the meaning of the home space and how older peoples’ discursive practices reflect societal discourses. In order to meet this aim the paradigm of post-modernism was selected along with the methodology of discourse analysis using Michel Foucault’s ideas. Narrative accounts were generated from a sample of 12 older people on two separate occasions on a one-to-one basis. The data was transcribed verbatim and a thematic analysis was used to condense the data and to allow for a Foucauldian discourse analysis of the topics identified by the participants. Five dominant discourses were identified as follows: Discourse of Risk – this was related to danger and trauma such as falls but the underlying risk was that of losing the home; Discourse of the Failing Body - explained how the participants were managing the physical demands of home-keeping with bodily changes threatening self-sufficiency; Discourse of Cognition – ageing as cognitively ‘challenged’ and again could be a threat to self-sufficiency; Discourse of Connections – the importance of contact and socialisation with others, animals and artefacts; Discourse of Consumption – highlighted the acquisition of equipment, adaptations and services to look after the self and the home and demonstrate ability. The meta-discourse of ageing as inevitable decline that circulates in society was being adhered to. However, one of the main findings was that the older people managed ageing in the home via managing risk. There was a constant underlying fear of losing their home and the participants consequently adopted the subject position of vulnerability. Foucault discusses the pervasiveness of power but stresses that where there is power there is resistance. In order to resist power, however, individuals need to gain critical consciousness. Challenging the status quo is essential if the dominant discourses regarding ageing are to be changed. Discursive trends towards ageing do appear to be emerging, but these are being heavily influenced by neoliberal policies and challenges from other modes of thinking are limited. Older people themselves can and do resist these dominant discourses and this requires continued encouragement and facilitation by professionals, voluntary organisations and the media.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Older people, space/place, governmentality, postmodern, resistance
Subjects: L500 Social Work
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2016 13:54
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2022 08:01

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